Beginning 2017, Ukrainian Christmas festivities start on Christmas Eve, which is celebrated on 24 December following the Gregorian calendar in official use in the Western Christian communities of Ukraine. The Christmas celebrations end on 19 January, the date of "Jordan" or Epiphany in the Julian calendar.
Christmas Eve is the evening or entire day before Christmas Day, the festival commemorating the birth of Jesus. Christmas Day is observed around the world, and Christmas Eve is widely observed as a full or partial holiday in anticipation of Christmas Day. Together, both days are considered one of the most culturally significant celebrations in Christendom and Western society.
The Gregorian calendar is the most widely used civil calendar in the world. It is named after Pope Gregory XIII, who introduced it in October 1582. The calendar spaces leap years to make the average year 365.2425 days long, approximating the 365.2422-day tropical year that is determined by the Earth's revolution around the Sun. The rule for leap years is:
Every year that is exactly divisible by four is a leap year, except for years that are exactly divisible by 100, but these centurial years are leap years if they are exactly divisible by 400. For example, the years 1700, 1800, and 1900 are not leap years, but the year 2000 is.
Epiphany, also Theophany, Denha, Little Christmas, or Three Kings' Day, is a Christian feast day that celebrates the revelation of God incarnate as Jesus Christ. In Western Christianity, the feast commemorates principally the visit of the Magi to the Christ Child, and thus Jesus' physical manifestation to the Gentiles. Moreover, the feast of the Epiphany, in some Western Christian denominations, also initiates the liturgical season of Epiphanytide. Eastern Christians, on the other hand, commemorate the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River, seen as his manifestation to the world as the Son of God. Qasr el Yahud in the West Bank, and Al-Maghtas in Jordan on the east bank, is considered to be the original site of the baptism of Jesus and the ministry of John the Baptist.
Both the December 25 Western Christianity Christmas Day and the January 7 Christmas Day of the Eastern Orthodox Church and Ukrainian Greek Catholic Churches following the Julian Calendar, are public holidays in Ukraine.With these two holiday dates the Ukrainian Christmas period lasts for an extended period, with the celebrations starting on December 6, the Western Christian observance of the Feast of Saint Nicholas and ending on the aforementioned January 19 the following year.
Western Christianity is the Latin Church, and Protestantism, together with the offshoots of these such as independent Catholicism and Restorationist churches taken together. The large majority of the world's 2.4 billion Christians are Western Christians. The original and still major part, the Latin Church, developed under the bishop of Rome in the former Western Roman Empire in Antiquity. Out of the Latin Church emerged a wide variety of independent Protestant denominations, including Lutheranism and Anglicanism, starting from the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century, as did Independent Catholicism in the 19th century. Thus, the term "Western Christianity" does not describe a single communion or religious denomination, but is applied to distinguish all these denominations collectively from Eastern Christianity.
The Eastern Orthodox Church, officially the Orthodox Catholic Church, is the second-largest Christian church, with approximately 200–260 million members. As one of the oldest religious institutions in the world, the Eastern Orthodox Church has played a prominent role in the history and culture of Eastern and Southeastern Europe, the Caucasus, and the Near East. It operates as a communion of autocephalous churches, each governed by its bishops in local synods. The church has no central doctrinal or governmental authority analogous to the Pope of Rome, but the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople is recognised by all as primus inter pares of the bishops.
The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church is a Byzantine Rite Eastern Catholic Church in full communion with the Holy See. It is the second-largest particular church in the Catholic Church.
Christmas Eve, or as it called 'Sviatyi Vechir' in Ukrainian ('Holy Evening') is filled with numerous customs and rituals. The customs include: decorating house and dinner table with special attributes (didukh, garlic, hay and others), performing koliadky ('carols') and so on. Each ritual has its own meaning and purpose, as such a few wisps of hay on the embroidered table cloth as a reminder of the manger in Bethlehem. One the most prominent customs of the night is a special supper, called Sviata Vecherya (Holy Supper).
A diduch, or didukh, is a Ukrainian Christmas decoration; made from a sheaf of wheat, it is a symbolic sacrifice taken from the best of the autumn harvest. "Didukh" literally means "the spirit of ancestors". Didukhy are traditionally made from the first or the last stalks of wheat reaped during the year. It symbolizes the household's wish for an abundance of nature and a bountiful harvest for the upcoming year. Before the holidays, wheat ears or stalks are gathered with colorful threads, then the bunches are tied with ribbons. A didukh is placed in most Ukrainian homes before Christmas, and kept until Maslenitsa (Carnival).
A twelve-dish Christmas Eve supper is traditionally prepared in many Central European and Northern European cultures, especially those that were formerly part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, including Polish, Lithuanian, Russian, Ukrainian and Belarusian. The meal consists of twelve meatless dishes representing the twelve months of the year. The tradition of the supper can be traced back to pre-Christian times and connected with remembrance of the souls of deceased ancestors.
Kutia (sweet grain pudding) is traditionally served at the Ukrainian Christmas dinner table. It is often the first dish in the traditional twelve-dish Christmas Eve supper (also known as Svyaty Vechir) and is rarely served at other times of the year.
Kutia or kutya is a ceremonial grain dish with sweet gravy traditionally served in Ukraine, Belarus and Russia during the Christmas - Feast of Jordan holiday season and/or as part of a funeral feast. The word with a descriptor is also used to describe the eves of Christmas, New Year, and Feast of Jordan days.
Ukrainian cuisine is the collection of the various cooking traditions of the Ukrainian people accumulated over many years. The cuisine is heavily influenced by the rich dark soil (chornozem) from which its ingredients come and often involves many components.
At the end of the Sviata Vechera the family often sings Ukrainian Christmas carols. In many communities the ancient Ukrainian tradition of caroling is carried on by groups of young people and members of organizations and churches calling at homes and collecting donations. The Ukrainian song "Shchedryk" became the basis for the world-famous Christmas carol, "Carol of the Bells". Another well-known carol is Boh predvičnyj narodivsja.
A Christmas carol is a carol whose lyrics are on the theme of Christmas, and which is traditionally sung on Christmas itself or during the surrounding holiday season. Christmas carols may be regarded as a subset of the broader category of Christmas music.
"Shchedryk" is a Ukrainian shchedrivka, or New Year's carol, known in English as "The Little Swallow". It was arranged by composer and teacher Mykola Leontovych in 1916, and tells a story of a swallow flying into a household to sing of wealth that will come with the following spring. "Shchedryk" was originally sung on the night of January 13, New Year's Eve in the Julian Calendar, which is Shchedry Vechir. Early performances of the piece were made by students at Kyiv University.
"Carol of the Bells" is a popular Christmas carol, with music by Ukrainian composer Mykola Leontovych in 1914 and lyrics by Peter J. Wilhousky. The song is based on the Ukrainian folk chant "Shchedryk". Wilhousky's lyrics are under copyright protection ; the music is in the public domain.
When the children see the first star in the eastern evening sky, symbolizing the trek of the Three Wise Men, the Sviata Vecherya may begin. In farming communities the head of the household now brings in a sheaf of wheat called the didukh which represents the importance of the ancient and rich wheat crops of Ukraine, the staff of life through the centuries. Didukh means literally "grandfather spirit" so it symbolizes the family's ancestors. In city homes a few stalks of golden wheat in a vase are often used to decorate the table.
Shopka is a traditional portable nativity scene used to represent nativity and other figures in a puppet form.
Kutia, Star of the Ukrainian Christmas Eve Supper
Kylymnyk, Stepan, 1955–1969; Ukrainskyi Rik u Narodnykh Zvychayakh v Narodnomu Osvitlenni [Ukrainian Year in Folk Customs from Historical Perspective], Winnipeg, Toronto
Tracz, Orysia 2015, First Star I See Tonight, Mazepa Publications Zhuravli, Winnipeg
Ukrainian Christmas Traditions, Ukrainian International Directory
Voropai, Oleksa 1958, Zvychai Nashoho Narodu [Customs of Our People], Ukrainske Vydavnytstvo, Munich
Yakovenko, Svitlana 2016, Ukrainian Christmas Eve Supper: Traditional village recipes for Sviata Vecheria, Sova Books, Sydney
Christmas in Poland is a major annual celebration, as in most countries of the Christian world. The observance of Christmas developed gradually over the centuries, beginning in ancient times; combining old Polish pagan customs with the religious ones introduced after the Christianization of Poland by the Catholic Church. Later influences include mutual permeating of local traditions and various folk cultures. It is one of the most important religious holidays for Poles, who follow a somewhat strict traditional custom. Christmas trees are decorated and lit in family rooms on the day of Christmas Eve. Other trees are placed in most public areas and outside churches. Christmas in Poland is called "Boże Narodzenie", which translates to 'God's Birth'.
The Twelve Days of Christmas, also known as Twelvetide, is a festive Christian season celebrating the Nativity of Jesus. In most Western ecclesiastical traditions, "Christmas Day" is considered the "First Day of Christmas" and the Twelve Days are 25 December – 5 January, inclusive. For many Christian denominations—for example, the Anglican Communion and Lutheran Church—the Twelve Days are identical to Christmastide, but for others, e.g., the Roman Catholic Church, Christmastide lasts longer than the Twelve Days of Christmas.
A cabbage roll is a dish consisting of cooked cabbage leaves wrapped around a variety of fillings. It is common to the cuisines of the Balkans, Central, Northern, Eastern Europe, Azerbaijan and Iran, as well as West Asia and Northern China.
Christmas traditions vary from country to country. Christmas celebrations for many nations include the installing and lighting of Christmas trees, the hanging of Advent wreaths, Christmas stockings, candy canes, setting out cookies and milk, and the creation of Nativity scenes depicting the birth of Jesus Christ. Christmas carols may be sung and stories told about such figures as the Baby Jesus, St Nicholas, Santa Claus, Father Christmas, Christkind or Grandfather Frost. The sending and exchange of Christmas card greetings, observance of fasting and special religious observances such as a midnight Mass or Vespers on Christmas Eve, the burning of a Yule log, and the giving and receiving of presents. Along with Easter, Christmas is one of the most important periods on the Christian calendar, and is often closely connected to other holidays at this time of year, such as Advent, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, St Nicholas Day, St. Stephen's Day, New Year's, and the Feast of the Epiphany.
Wigilia is the traditional Christmas Eve vigil supper in Poland, held on December 24. The term is often applied to the whole of Christmas Eve, extending further to Pasterka - midnight Mass, held in Roman Catholic churches all over Poland and in Polish communities worldwide at or before midnight. The custom is sometimes referred to as "wieczerza" or "wieczerza wigilijna", in Old Polish meaning evening repast, linked to the late church service, Vespers from the Latin.
Kalach, kalács, kolach, or colac, is a traditional Eastern European bread, commonly served during various ritual meals. The name originates from the Old Slavonic word kolo (коло) meaning "circle", "wheel".
Kūčios or Kūtės is the traditional Christmas Eve dinner in Lithuania, held on the twenty fourth of December. The meal is a family occasion which includes many traditions of both pagan and Christian origin. Some traditions are no longer widespread and usually Lithuanians just enjoy dinner with relatives and friends while the main events and festivities are left for Christmas Day.
Malanka is a Ukrainian, Belarusian, and Russian folk holiday celebrated on 13 January, which is New Year's Eve in accordance with the Julian calendar.
Badnjak, refers to a log brought into the house and placed on the fire on the evening of Christmas Eve, a central tradition in Croatian Christmas celebration, much like a yule log in other European traditions. In Croatian the name for Christmas Eve is derived from the term badnjak. The log is cut with great ceremony on Christmas Eve morning, which for Roman Catholic Croats is December 24. The cutting, preparation, bringing in, and laying on the fire are surrounded by elaborate religious rituals, with many regional variations. The log is kept burning throughout Christmas Day.
Koliada or Koleda is a Slavic mythological deity, that personalizes the newborn winter infant Sun and impersonates the New Year's cycle. It is connected with the solar cycle, passing through the four seasons and from one substantial condition into another.
"Boh predvičnyj narodivsja" is a Ukrainian Christmas carol, which is translated into English as "Eternal God Born Tonight" or sometimes "Pre-eternal God Was Born." It focuses on the incarnation in the story of the nativity.
National symbols are the sacred attributes for Ukrainian people. In Ukrainian graphics there exist a number of symbols and images from national songs, legends. Such symbols and imagery are used in national customs and rituals. They are reproduced in embroidery on national costumes, ritual cloth—rushnyks, painted on crockery, in forged products, in carving, in bas-relief house decoration, in hearth painting, pottery, engraving and also in Ukrainian traditional Easter eggs—pysankas.
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